Aboard the USS Minnesota (Aug. 12, 2013) -- Machinist's Mate (Weapons) (SS) Chaz Lewis, leading petty officer in the forward torpedo room watches his stop watch and listens to direction from the control room. The attack submarine was submerged in the Atlantic, holding drills. Lewis and his crew were shooting "air slugs" -- meaning they were filling up their torpedo tubes with air and pushing that air out into the water, simulating a torpedo launching.
Photo by Mark D. Faram
It’s no secret that sailors identify heavily with their ratings — and thousands of sailors are about to get new ones— their Navy occupation — more so than at any command they’ve served at.
And now, For 18,395 nuclear power and submarine sailors, the Navy has created seven new service ratings and by Dec. 18, will issue the new titles and rating abbreviations — just in time for Christmas.
"The creation of these seven new service ratings assists in the identification and classification of submarine and nuclear-trained sailors that have acquired specific skills and training," said Sharon Anderson, spokeswoman for the chief of naval personnel. "This measure improves the Navy's ability to track these sailors in the training pipeline and in the fleet."
Anderson said the changes are administrative in nature and will be largely transparent to sailors. No meaning that no new career fields are really being created, nor will these sailors have to sew on any new rating badges when the new service ratings take effect, which is expected by Dec. 18.
But now, and have for some time, but for the first time, Sailors in the three nuclear power ratings and in as well as four submarine non-nuclear fields — navigation, communications, auxiliary and weapons — now officially have what the Navy calls a "service rating" to call home. That begs the question, what's a service rating?
You might be asking what, exactly, a service rating is and that requires a short explanation.
All Enlisted sailors serve in one of 57 general ratings, which have a single rating badge and two- or three-letter abbreviation, like BM for boatswain's mate or AG for aerographer's mate. under one of the Navy’s 57 "General Ratings." These have mostly two-letter abbreviations as well as a single rating insignia that’s worn on their rank insignia. Creating these career fields requires the approval of the Secretary of the Navy.
For example, aviation boatswain’s mate is a general rating, but under that career field are three "service ratings specific to that deal with fuels, aircraft handling, and launching and recovery equipment. and aircraft handling."
Service ratings are used for advancement, so that ABEs only compete with other ABEs for their next stripe, rather than also vying with ABFs and ABHs.All three AB service ratings start with the same title — Aviation Boatswain’s Mate and all three wear the same winged cross anchors on their rating badges - but each have a different suffix on their titles and have three letter rating abbreviations, ABE, ABF and ABH. Service ratings can be approved by the chief of naval operations.
With the addition of the seven new service ratings, the Navy now has 11 general ratings which now subdivide into 28 total service ratings.
All seven new service ratings, until now, had been what the Navy classifies as "exam ratings," which had titles and abbreviations that were used to identify sailors during testing and the advancement system only because on the manpower side, these sailors were identified within their ratings only by their Navy Enlisted Classifications code.
Three of the four new submarine service ratings once had life under current for former general ratings. Submarine quartermasters and radiomen were merged into the electronics technician rating in 1994. electronic’s technicians working in the navigation and communications fields were merpart of a rating consolidation announced in 1994 that moved them from the quartermaster and radioman ratings respectively into the ET rating. Also in the 1990s, submarine qualified torpedoman’s mates were merged into the machinist’s mate rating. Both TM and RM names and abbreviations were later eliminated from the surface force through two other rating mergers; though there are still QM’s in the surface fleetNavy.
And though a generation of sailors have come and gone in the two decades since the Navy executed these mergers, calls for recreating these three ratings under their old names and abbreviation have yet to die down. Sources say tell Navy Times the idea to recreate the radioman, submarine quartermaster, and torpedoman's mates general ratings are still being discussed in the submarine these three ratings is still on the table as part of an extensive, ongoing reorganization that is going on inside the submarine community.
But personnel officials say the creation of the seven new service ratings is not an official step towards recreating these much-loved extinct ratings. this rating creation is related to the submarine reorganization and how this move could impact any efforts to recreate the TM, RM and QM standalone submarine ratings.
"The purpose of this ... change was to enable these sailors as well as the nuclear trained sailors to be tracked better by the personnel system," Anderson said. "It was not meant to create, split out, or consolidate any of the ratings."It was purely an administrative function that required a NAVADMIN to be transmitted to the fleet to finalize the process."
Anderson said that the chief of personnel had no "visibility" on any proposal to bring back, suggesting that a query be sent to Naval Submarine Forces asking the status of the proposal. SUBFOR did acknowledge receiving the query on Nov. 12, but as of press time had not been able to provide any further clarity on the subject.
Here’s Tthe new submarine career service rating titles and abbreviations and and which NEC’s will be folded in under each:
EMN: Electrician's Mate, Nuclear Power
Includes EMN will include Navy Enlisted Classifications: 3301, 3302, 3354, 3359, 3364, 3371, 3372, 3376, 3377, 3384, 3389, 3394, and 9901.
ETN: Electronics Technician, Nuclear Power
Includes NECs: ETN will include NEC's : 3301, 3302, 3353, 3359, 3363, 3371, 3372, 3373, 3376, 3377, 3383, 3389, 3393, and 9901.
MMN: Machinist's Mate, Nuclear Power
Includes NECs: MMN will include NEC's : 3301, 3302, 3351, 3355, 3356, 3359, 3365, 3366, 3371, 3372, 3376, 3377, 3385, 3386, 3389, 3395, 3396, and 9901.
MMA includes: will include NEC's :4231, 4234, 4246, 4252, and 4253.
About Mark D. Faram
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.